Disconnect to Connect: Couples and Social Media Use

Disconnect to Connect: Couples and Social Media Use

Categories: AACC BLOG

Disconnect to Connect: Couples and Social Media Use

by Elias Moitinho, PhD, LPC-S, LPC, LMFT & Denise Moitinho, PhD

You may have clients who complain about their spouse’s excessive use of technology and social media and how it interferes negatively with their marital relationship. We know that married couples enter counseling for a variety of reasons, and yes, poor communication, which leads to an escalation of conflict, is indeed among the top reasons.[1] You may have helped couples deal with more complicated situations, such as affairs, pornography, or some other types of addictions. Interestingly, many couples have faced high levels of conflict and low levels of marital satisfaction due to the negative impact of their technology and social media use.[2] Therefore, whether you are counseling, mentoring, or discipling married couples, addressing the impact of technology and social media use on marriage needs to be part of your counseling approach.

The reality is that a growing number of people use social media. According to the Pew Research Center (2018), “roughly two-thirds of U.S. adults (68%) now report that they are Facebook users, and roughly three-quarters of those users access Facebook on a daily basis.”[3] The same article points out that the younger generation tends to use other social media platforms, “78% of 18- to 24-year-olds use Snapchat, and a sizeable majority of these users (71%) visit the platform multiple times per day. Similarly, 71% of Americans in this age group now use Instagram and close to half (45%) are Twitter users.”[4] Consequently, counselors need to be competent to address the potential issues that may arise due to the pervasive impact of technology and social media on couple’s lives.

Technology and Social Media Challenges to Married Couples

Technology and social media have revolutionized the way people communicate and conduct business. It has enriched our lives in many ways, but it has also created some new challenges for couples and counselors as well. Different opinions and research findings exist regarding the impact of technology and social media on mental health[5]and how they can affect the quality of marital relationships.[6] When a spouse is more connected to social media than to his or her spouse, the relationship may suffer.

            In our book, The Dream Home: How to Create An Intimate Christian Marriage (2020), we review some research findings on the negative impact of social media, particularly Facebook, on marital relationships. Facebook has been correlated with decreased levels of marital satisfaction and even divorce. In fact, several studies note that Facebook facilitates communication between people, including non-marital partners, and consequently, these Facebook interactions may eventually lead to extra-marital affairs.[7] Therefore, in our book, we recommend that couples be prudent regarding their social media use, including Facebook, and we suggest the following social media boundaries.

Boundaries to Disconnect and Connect

  • Be wise when you post on social media. Ask yourself, “How will this post motivate and encourage people?” or “How will this post reflect on my marriage?” You may even ask yourself, “What if this post is read in court?” or “What if my boss reads this post?”
  • Be wise and careful when you send a text message. Revise and edit it before sending it.
  • Engage in social media as a couple.
  • Make sure you and your spouse are together in several pictures you post.
  • Avoid using technology or social media during meal times.
  • Avoid posting private information such as marital conflicts or disagreements on social media.
  • Do not be secretive about your social media accounts. Both spouses need to have access to each other’s social media accounts.[8]

As a counselor, you can share with couples some of these suggested boundaries and discuss their thoughts about them. You can help couples come up with their own boundaries. Also, you can help them improve their listening skills to connect with each other. You may share biblical principles with couples that involve using gentle, kind, and encouraging words to facilitate communication (Prov. 15:1; Eph. 4:29). We believe that helping couples navigate their technology and social media use can improve the quality of their marriage. Therefore, you can help couples become intentional about disconnecting from social media regularly to connect with their spouses in a meaningful face-to-face interaction. Doing so will strengthen their relationship and increase their intimacy.

Elias Moitinho, PhD, LPC-S, LPC, LMFT, Professor of Counseling, Department Chair in the Department of Counselor Education, in the School of Behavioral Sciences, at Liberty University. Dr. Moitinho has many years of work experience in various roles, including pastor, counselor, seminary professor, and director of a Christian counseling center. Before joining Liberty University, he was the Hope for the Heart Chair of Biblical Counseling at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Dr. Moitinho has taught as a guest professor in seminaries in Mexico, Cuba, and Spain.

Denise Moitinho, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Community Care & Counseling, in the School of Behavioral Sciences, at Liberty University. Dr. Moitinho also has an MA in Human Services. She is currently working on a second doctorate. She has over nine years of experience as an adjunct professor teaching both residential and online courses at Liberty University before becoming an Assistant professor. She has taught in the field of human services and pastoral ministry. Previously, she worked on a church staff and managed children’s programs, supervised, and trained teachers.

The Moitinhos have started their own YouTube channel and website called Motivation and Growth.

[1] Doss, B.D., Simpson, L.E., & Christensen, A. (2004). Why do couples seek marital therapy? Professional Psychology:Research and Practice, 35(6), 608-614. https://doi.org/10.1037/0735-7028.35.6.608
[2] Dew, J. & Tulane, S. (2015). The Association between Time Spent Using Entertainment Media and Marital Quality in a Contemporary Dyadic National Sample, Journal of Family and Economic Issues 36(4), 621–32, https://doi:10.1007/s10834-014-9427-y
[3] https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2018/03/01/social-media-use-in-2018/
[4] https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2018/03/01/social-media-use-in-2018/
[5]  Burghart, V., Rudyk, J., & Puder, D. (2019, November 6). Is social media good for mental health? Psychiatry and Psychotherapy Podcast. https://psychiatrypodcast.com/psychiatry-psychotherapy-podcast/2019/11/6/is-social-media-good-for-mental-health; Mir, E., & Novas, C. (2020). Social media and adolescents’ and young adults’ mental health. National Center for Health Research. http://www.center4research.org/social-media-affects-mental-health/; Sasso, M.P., Giovanetti, A.K., Schied, A.L., Burke, H.H., & Haeffel, G.J. (2019). #Sad: Twitter content predicts changes in cognitive vulnerability and depressive symptoms. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 43, 657-665. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10608-019-10001-6
[6] Valenzuela, S., Halpern, D., & Katz, J.E. (2014). Social network sites, marriage well-being and divorce: Survey and state-level evidence from the United States. Computers in Human Behavior, 36, 94-101. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2014.03.034
[7] Carter, Z.A. (2016). Married and previously married men and women’s perceptions of communication on Facebook with the opposite sex: How communicating through Facebook can be damaging to marriages. Journal of Divorce and Remarriage, 57(1), 36-55. https://doi.org/10.1080/10502556.2015.1113816
[8] Moitinho, E., & Moitinho, D. (2020). The Dream Home: How to Create: An Intimate Christian Marriage. Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt Publishing Company.